Frankfort, Germany to Almaty, Kazakhstan
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May 24, 2005

Well we arrived from Frankfurt in Almaty, Kazakhstan at about 10:35 PM Kazakh time (9:35 am Chicago, May 23) The airport was nicer than expected, a little confusing filling out the customs declaration (it was in Russian, I forgot to ask on the plane for an English version). They didn’t ask how much money we had with us. We were told we needed to state how much money we would enter with. I hope this was okay, we were told they are very strict about this usually. It didn’t appear that the luggage was opened at all, thought we lost a piece for a little while, but it turned up.

We met “Igor” “call me Eugene” he said in broken English. He was an older gentleman, really nice and polite and helped us with all of the bags, which we fit, in his small Mercedes. 5-6 people asked us if we needed help or a cab. We just nodded “no” and said “Paca” (thank you in Russia) I feel a little silly speaking in a different language as if this doesn’t make us stand out even more as tourists.
It was a little intimidating arriving at night; I guess just “traveler’s jitters” Seeing some young soldiers-Policzia?, walking about and smiling with these huge decorative uniformed hats seemed to relieve the jitters a bit. On the way to the hotel Eugene, I guess is the customary way to drive fast-seemed very comfortable doing so. We had to stop at a small building which has bars on the doors and windows to “exchange dollars” We hand a man through a gate $300.00 and we got 39,000 tenge in return. I felt like we were into espionage or something! The desk lady suggested we keep some our luggage in the “luggage room on the first floor” I thought not. We lugged it in with two trips up the elevator. I didn’t know how or how much to “tip” the man who helped us, Marie heard you don’t do this in this country and maybe she was right as when I asked, they didn’t quite know how to handle this either!. She said maybe 100 Tenge? (about $1.35 US)

The hotel was about as expected a little dark outside, small inside and didn’t quite know how to handle everything. Culture shock. I barricaded our door with luggage “just in case” but no real reason to worry. Everyone seemed nice and also polite.
Woke up at 5:30 am, Eugene says he will be here at 11 am for the trip to the airport. We Went down to breakfast, buffet style, which was included in the $70.00 a night hotel stay, who knows what half of that stuff was! I had some small “hot-dog-looking" sausages, a coleslaw thing and also attempted to have a glass of milk, (there were three different colors, I chose the whitest) until I picked it up and it was HOT. No thanks. Marie had tea and biscuits. Marie was just looking around and you could just see in her eyes the intense interest she had for soaking up everything around her. She couldn’t help but notice the somewhat familiar faces in that she could see Gianna’s heritage and traits in all of their faces. We would see people that looked like older versions of children we saw on the Internet and swore they must have been related or at least from the same villages.
Tina, just when I thought I didn't have to see another cooking show for weeks... Look what she found 8,000 miles from home.
Copyright Our Kazakh Angel 2005
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